With the holidays just around the corner, you may be looking for some extra cash. And working as a secret shopper sounds like the perfect gig. But a Portland woman warns, think twice before responding to that advertisement for mystery shoppers.
After replying to an email, Nicole Ibaboa explains, she got a check in the mail for $2750. "I was like money, money, money. Christmas, Christmas, Christmas." The company instructed her to deposit or cash the check. Then, they wanted her to do some mystery shopping to evaluate customer service at major department stores. After that, Ibaboa was supposed to wire money to two overseas accounts." "I didn't understand why I had to send out two $1,1000 money transactions to two different places," explains the Portland mother. Turns out, the check was bogus. Ibaboa says a clerk at a check cashing store turned her away and confiscated the fake check.
So who's behind this operation? The paper trail leads to a dead end. The man who signed the paperwork, Jason Brooks claims to be with "The American Secret Shoppers Association." The group doesn't exist. The company, called "Shoppers Research" provided an address of 5915 N. Waterfront Drive in Tacoma, Washington. There's no business there. It is a city park. And as for the phone number? A man answered "Secret Shopper". But, he declined to comment and quickly hung up.
The Better Business Bureau admits, mystery shopping is a legitimate business. But, there are also unscrupulous companies. "Right now, because of how competitive the job market is, it is pretty sad when people are confronted with job opportunities that are actually not legitimate," says Kyle Kavas of the BBB.
Consumer groups warn, the first red flag is unsolicited email advertising work as a mystery shopper. Also, a legitimate secret shopper company will never require any kind of payment for employment.